Dance is usually very precise. Even the smallest gestures a dancer makes onstage, everything from the swing of a leg to the flick of a finger, are tested, debated and set. But for choreographer Thomas Hauert, leaving things to chance is far more interesting.
“I’m interested in more subtle things than what the conscious mind can command,” the Brussels-based artist says. “When you’re repeating the same movements over and over, there’s a process of reducing things, making them as simple as possible for yourself . . . I’m more interested in what a group of people can achieve together in the moment than what I can plan in advance.”
“It takes a lot of discipline and good will on the part of the dancers to make it work,” he says. “They have to keep challenging themselves to create the thing together.”
Hauert’s Pond Skaters has no set movement. Instead, it employs a series of structures and rules his five dancers work within as they create the piece together. Improvisation can sometimes mean total autonomy for dancers, with nothing pre-planned. But here, Hauert’s structure ensures that the piece stays fresh each time it’s performed.
“The body stores certain movement patterns to manoeuvre through the world, so you don’t have to command things each time you do them,” he says. “With dance training, those patterns get very much built up, and so we have to constantly challenge ourselves in new ways; otherwise, we’ll just keep performing the same stored memories each time.”
“I think the result is something that’s very easy to connect with because it’s meant to trigger the audience on a visceral level.”